I am a microbial ecologist and environmental engineer. I’m interested in understanding how microorganisms today were shaped by environmental stress in Earth’s past. Understanding the evolutionary history of a microbe and its biochemical machinery can help us to design and manage systems that improve soil fertility, wastewater treatment, energy production, and pest management. During my Ph.D. at the Colorado School of Mines, I studied microbial community diversity and function in full scale wastewater treatment systems. I was investigating how disturbances affect diversity and thus bioreactor function (i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, and contaminants of emerging concern).
My current research aims to understand the physiology and regulatory mechanisms of nitrate dissimilation (i.e., denitrification and respiratory ammonification) in dual-pathway nitrate reducer, Intrasporangium calvum. This organism is in the bacterial phyla Actinobacteria and is found in many habitats, particularly soils and wastewater treatment systems. This research helps inform our understanding of how reactive nitrogen (i.e., nitrate, nitrite, & ammonia) is either retained in ecosystems through respiratory ammonification or lost via denitrification, with potential release of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.
I currently work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Molecular Responses at the Desert Research Institute, Reno, where I am continuing my research in nitrogen dissimilation, but also applying theories of nitrogen cost minimization to better understand how denitrifiers and respiratory ammonifiers cope with assimilatory nitrogen stress. I am applying many molecular tools to traditional microbiology experiments, including DNA/RNA high-throughput sequencing, genomics, metagenomics, and functional genomics (transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics).
KeywordsMicrobial ecology, microbiology, evolutionary biology, biochemistry, physiology, cost minimizationwastewater treatment, membrane bioreactor